Location: Romulan Senate Archives
Timeline: Day 2
To be the head of a noble house or a member of the Romulan Senate was to weild a significant amount of power within the Star Empire. To be both was even moreso. Ironically, however, it was within those hallowed halls of state that these powers were perhaps most limited in some ways. Certain ancient and original documents, for example, could not be removed from the Senate archives and had to be referenced under controlled conditions...Though the number of items old or important enough to bear this designation was unfortunately drastically reduced from the pre-Hobus collection of such, most of which had perished along with the Empire's original capital.
As many young upstarts believe I should have as well, thought Jaeih with dry humor as she very carefully reached out a gloved finger to turn the page of the text she was referencing at the moment--old enough to be written on brittle paper with fading ink, it was thousands of years old and while technically a reproduction, had been brought out of off-world academic storage for the new central archives after the establishment of the new capital as a replacement for the now-lost original.
The woman herself wasn't nearly as old as the text she was handling, but ancient nontheless at 232 years, and a replacement of sorts herself. Several decades earlier she had succeeded her elder sister in the Senate and as the leader of their house after the death of the latter in Shinzon's coup attempt. As for her own tenure...her incidental survival of the Hobus disaster less than ten years ago thanks to a travel schedule that placed her away from the path of destruction was not so much what some objected to, she knew, but rather more that as a sitting senator at the time of an incident that had inflicted such grievous harm on the Empire--some of it, she had to admit, at the Senate and Praetor's own decisions in failing to better handle such--she had chosen to continue to serve - or to put a finer point on it, to continue to live - afterwards, rather than assuage her presumed shame on the point of a dagger or a fatal addition to her tea. Neither of which would do anything to improve our situation as it currently stands, Jaeih thought, flipping the next page just as carefully. The sound of steps approaching behind, however, caused her to pause and turn; her hearing was somewhat diminished in these twilight years, but far from gone; and the instincts which warned against letting anyone approach unannounced to her rear were as sharp as ever.
Vaebn steps were slow - deliberately so to mask as much as possible the effort they cost him - but he hastened them at the sight of someone turning real pages in an ancient text. Even with gloves on, that was permitted in only the rarest circumstances since holographic reproductions were just as faithful in imparting what could be seen in the original. And such precautions were all the more important with so few of the original, or even ancient reproductions of originals, now remained.
Unfortunately, the destruction of the central archives had also meant the death of most of the trained archivists, leaving less knowledgeable or in some cases newly initiated apprentices to do the work. Which was why long-retired Senior Archivist Vaebn tr'Sathe had been drafted to return. Still, he would find out who was responsible and remind them that in the cases where holographic reproduction was not available requests for viewing - even those from a senator, as he saw the reader to be - were to be delayed until a hologram was prepared. Nevertheless, he could hardly snatch it from her hands now.
"Shaoi kon, Deihu," he greeted her. "May I assist with your research?"
"Perhaps...." Her voice trailed off with the proper dip of her head in greeting in return, somewhat less than his to account for the difference between them. "It is perhaps less a specific point of data I am seeking, and more to review a broad swath of historical understanding. As to various times past when we were met with the intersection of political instability and inexperience." That they were also met currently with a variety of additional challenges was left unvoiced; but so then was that there had been additional--if different--challenges in the earliest centuries after settlement, as well, and at other times. Ancient as Jaieh was, current affairs appeared to have her reaching to mine the wisdom of those far older still who had proceeded them all millennia before, in the hopes that such might provide some crucial insight...or perhaps, if nothing else, the hope and encouragement that she like most would rarely admit to feeling the need for at the moment.
She was handling fragile ancient texts just to browse for information?? Vaebn cringed inwardly. A senator her age should know better, but she was a senator so he suppressed an urge to upbraid her for it. While his age and essential experience might give him a considerable degree of immunity in the present circumstances, a life time of service reflexively prevented such a response.
"There are more efficient ways to accomplish such a search," he replied tightly. "Ones which an archivist should have suggested, but unfortunately most of my staff are little better than barely trained interns."
With a similar lifetime of service behind her, as a military officer, as an aide in the Senate to her father, and later as her sister's chief of staff before her current position, Jaeih heard clearly what was not said as easily as what was. Almost wistfully, she scanned the last of the page and carefully closed the tome.
"Someday they will learn...If they survive long enough." There was an acerbic humor to her voice for the comment, but also a solemn truth; the capital had always been a perilous place even by Romulan standards. The lack of experience among many of those now filling slots historically held by those older and better trained, however, was both new and now all too common. Jaeih's own children and grandchildren had perished in the supernova, destroying the succession plans she and her sister, and their father before them, had so carefully laid; her current heir, Sarith, was a great-grandchild barely more than 30. "One would hope that the materials themselves, however, will survive until such a time as they do." She set the book back into the stasis box on the edge of the table that it had been delivered to her in.
He breathed a quiet sigh of relief when the stasis box cycled closed. "We have been working to make additional reproductions so that the essential information at least survives. But the originals will last longer kept in stasis," he chided mildly, as he moved the box back to its place. "Whether the new staff survives is another issue.." he muttered, making a mental note to add an extra level of permissions so no one could open one without his approval.
"One that extends far beyond the environs of the archives, unfortunately." It was perhaps a more familiar sort of conversation than what was likely to be engaged in between most senators and most staff, even the most senior of such; but not entirely unexpected in the overall context; for the decades Jaeih had been her sister's chief of staff, she had developed a rapport and professional connections with a variety of the small staff who served the body as a whole, including Vaebn. "The next half-century will be fraught with peril from it." Once again, the unsaid, looming: Due to her age and his fragile condition, the odds that either of them would see that period out were slim.
"Few periods of our history have not been," he answered simply. It was not quite a verbal shrug, but close; it was nearly impossible to serve in the archives without developing a long view of history. Some might think the fact that the planet where most of his kin resided had been spared was an additional factor, but in truth it was their history that gave him the most hope of an Empire renewed rather than fragmented or destroyed. If the exiled could not only rebuild and prosper but remain loyal, the Empire would survive even the fires of Hobus. Though not unscathed... "My greatest concern is that there are fewer of us who recall those other times and can therefore guide the younger ones rising to meet these new ones."
"Yes." The resignation in her voice was as close to palpable as Romulan high society allowed for. "And they will become fewer by the year and by the decade, long before those who will succeed them can be brought to the levels of knowledge and skill which used to be integral to the responsibilities and posts they will enter."
Vaebn nodded fractionally. The Senator spoke generally - as was proper, especially for one in her position - but he knew the circumstances of her House and so understood all too well the heart of her fear for those who must take on responsibility much ahead of their training. His years in the Capital had trained him too well to allow his own concern to show, but despite the greater numbers remaining in his clan, he felt a similar apprehension for many of the younger members he had helped to train. How well had they absorbed his lessons? Youth had ever been prone to arrogance, and likely to cast aside the hard earned wisdom or experience of age in favor of their own prejudice toward all that was young and new as themselves. "We can only train them as well as we able. And as much as they are willing to learn."
"For as long as we are able." She appended. "You cannot fly across the galaxy in a day no matter how willing the parties involved are or how well-kept the warp engines." She flicked a glance over to the text in the stasis box. "I find comfort and wisdom in the tales and words of those who mastered times earlier in the building of the Empire, when many took on tasks they were perhaps ill-prepared for, and succeeded."
"I could provide a book with all of those tales expertly transcribed, and in easily searchable format," he suggested mildly. In other circumstances or with a different individual it might have been a harsher tone, but not only was he loathe to chide someone of her rank and age; he understood the desire to not just read history but touch it. There was something in actually touching the source material - making that physical connection to the past - that went beyond any intellectual grasp of the words it contained. Few had been so bold as to actually unseal these documents to satisfy that desire, but he had found any number of staff and officials, especially those beyond their first century, wandering the halls of the new archives as though trying to breathe in some sense of continuity from history contained here.
"Transcribed, perhaps, by the staff who allowed the originals to be unsealed?" One eyebrow and corner of Jaeih's mouth rose in unison with the humor in her voice; given the amount of work involved - on top of one's normal duties - it was the sort of creative punishment and teachable moment alike she might have unleashed on a promising-but-unpolished young staffer during her days serving her sister.
Vaebn chuckled softly - it might be worth making the transgressors transcribe a certain number of copies by hand from old photographic reproductions - but shook his head in response to her question. "No, I would not subject you to what would no doubt be an error riddled collection. The reference I was thinking of was one that I myself edited. It was produced as for the Academy on ch'Bardat; a gift donated in remembrance of my grandmother." He looked across the hall of records, his expression a mix of wistfulness and irony. "I think she would appreciate that the contribution she unknowingly made to preserving the Empire's history."
"Then I would be pleased to review it." Jaeih replied, with a small dip of her head forward in thanks, then stood - slowly, given her age, the folds of her silken robes rustling around her ankles as she began to make her way out. "With the hope that our descendants will further that history into the future by the efforts we undertake now."
"Indeed," he responded, inclining his head in precise degree of acknowledgement and he moved to accompany her, his halting steps matching her slow pace. "If we allowed beverages in here, I would drink to that."